O’Sullivan has won all three of his meetings with Murphy at the Crucible
Ronnie O’Sullivan completed a 13-7 victory over Shaun Murphy at the Betfred World Championship as he stepped up his challenge for a sixth Crucible crown.
O’Sullivan was never behind in this much-anticipated second round clash, and having built leads of 6-2 and 10-6 over the first two sessions, he added the three frames he needed on Saturday morning. The Rocket is through to the quarter-finals in Sheffield for the 18th time since 1995 and will now face the winner of the Chinese derby between Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.
Chigwell’s 41-year-old O’Sullivan previously lifted the trophy in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 and is clearly focused on making it six titles to equal Steve Davis’s tally and get within one of Stephen Hendry’s record of seven. He is also seeking an 18th career Triple Crown victory and second of the year having won the Masters in January.
O’Sullivan made a break of 67 to take control of today’s opening frame and sealed it by potting the last red to go 11-6 up. Murphy made 55 in the next then O’Sullivan countered with 52 before running out of position. A safety battle on the yellow followed, and Murphy potted it to a centre pocket then cleared the table to raise his hopes of a fight back.
World number five Murphy crucially missed the final green in the last frame of the second session when he had a chance to close to 9-7, and he passed up another opportunity in frame 19 while on a break of 22, though this time it was a kick which caused his red to a top corner to miss its target. O’Sullivan punished him ruthlessly with 111, his fourth century of the tournament.
Both players missed chances in frame 20, and when Murphy failed on a red to top corner when he trailed 46-17, it proved his last shot as O’Sullivan added 55 to cross the winning line.
“I’ve practised for this tournament for six or seven weeks,” said world number 12 O’Sullivan. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to play well but I’ve put my work in and I hope I’ll get stronger each match.
“I come here and get in a little cocoon and do what I’ve got to do. It’s very hard, it is a long slog mentally for me and I know it is for everybody else.
“The fans pay their money and they come to watch, we are in a sport of entertainment and you like to give people value for money, so if I can be involved in another good match that would be fantastic.
“I look at myself as a band or a singer nowadays. You want to write great albums every year but I’m not confident enough in writing albums every year, so I just choose to come and play the tournaments and have fun and enjoy it and do my best to be fiercely competitive. But my main thing is to go round, play exhibitions, travel, do my stuff for Eurosport and work with different people outside of the snooker industry.
“I’ve become like a band when they do a world tour and they pitch up and play and there isn’t that pressure there, if you have a good night or bad night it doesn’t matter. I enjoy that position more, but I have a responsibility to try and play to a certain level, for myself as well.
“I haven’t had the greatest of seasons, I haven’t written a great album this year. But it hasn’t been a bad year. I just need to be a supporting act. I don’t mind letting the other guys write the good albums. The Rolling Stones are the big act, they don’t support anyone. I’m maybe a bit likes James Blunt, he seems a pretty cool dude.
“I’ve never been driven by records and titles and being the greatest player on the planet. I just feel lucky and privileged to play snooker and not have to get up at six in the morning to get on the Central Line into London and do a 9-5 job. I’m truly blessed for that.”
Murphy said: “Any match against Ronnie O’Sullivan is a test of your skills. You have to play at your absolute best to win and I didn’t. There were fine margins between the match being a lot closer. I didn’t think 13-7 reflected the match but he’s into the next round and I wish him all the best.
“Coming in today at 9-7 would have felt better than 10-6, but I still came here today feeling confident and I’ve won here from further behind so I knew I could do it. I had the kick on the red in the third frame and there is nothing I can do about that.
“Ronnie played really well in the whole match and if he plays like that with that level of focus I think he’ll win. I don’t subscribe to this not being bothered stuff that he comes out with, but he looked like he was trying to me. He is still the benchmark by which we all measure ourselves, if he turns up for his next game with that level of focus then whoever he plays is in trouble.”
Meanwhile, John Higgins took control of his second round clash with Mark Allen by winning six of the eight frames in the second session to lead 9-7.
Four-time champion Higgins took the first four frames of the session with top breaks of 84 and 124 to go 7-5 up. Allen pulled one back and looked set to make it 7-7 when he made a 70 in frame 14. But Higgins produced a stunning 72 clearance to go 8-6 in front.
Allen took the 15th but Higgins won the last of the session to give himself a two-frame advantage going into tonight’s conclusion, which starts at 7pm.